Feature Article - July 2007
Find a printable version here

Special Supplement: Complete Guide to Sports & Recreation Surfaces

By Dana Carman


Most of the tennis courts you'll find in the United States today are known as hard courts, which are made with a concrete or asphalt base (typically built on top of a compacted crushed stone sub-base) overlaid with layers of acrylic mixed with rubber or latex particles to create some cushion. Sand is also a component of the mix, and varying the size and amount of the sand particles can vary the speed of the court.

According to Lee Murray, co-owner of Competition Athletic Surfaces Inc., a company that builds, resurfaces and repairs tennis courts across the Southeast, some manufacturers have also experimented with inserting a cushioned pad under the acrylic surface to provide the cushion, but the tried-and-true method of mixing rubber particles into the acrylic layers is the most common.

The more cushion to the court, the slower the play. Adjustments can be made to the court surface to accommodate the type and level of players who will be the main users of your facility. If the players are primarily older and more recreational, a slower, more cushioned court may be favorable. If the court is for a high school, a faster game is more desired.

On the market now are also some rubber sheet goods with a top coating, but Murray said those products are not yet fully accepted by the tennis community as there are still some kinks to be worked out, mainly in how the surface plays.

Problems can lurk under the surface, causing court damage if you're not careful. Michael DiNatale, principal and construction manager of All American Sports Group, said that time, money and attention need to be spent on the sub-base.

"The most important thing, and this is probably true for any surface, is the sub-base. If you don't have a good sub-base, it doesn't matter what you put on top of it," he said.

DiNatale said his company gets a lot of calls asking for help in fixing cracked courts. Upon arriving and assessing the court, they generally discover that it isn't the finish, or upper layers, that has caused the problem. It's what lies underneath.Murray agreed. "The primary reason for damage on the courts that we see boils down to improper construction," he said. "The base isn't prepared right, and then cracking occurs down the line."

Reuse a Shoe, Get a Surface

A lot of the recycled rubber we talk about is from ground-up tires. Not all of it, however.

Some of it is from Nike's Reuse-A-Shoe Program, which was started in 1993. Through the program, shoes of any brand, including Nike, are ground up and incorporated into sports surfaces along with recycled material from the manufacturing of Nike brand footwear.

The ground-up material is called, appropriately, Nike Grind, and comes in three forms: Nike Grind Rubber, from outsoles and recycled manufacturing material, which is used in baseball and soccer fields, weight room floors and running tracks; Nike Grind Foam, from midsoles, which is used in synthetic basketball courts, tennis courts and playground surfacing; and Nike Grind Upper Fabric, from textile and leather uppers, which is used in padding under hardwood basketball floors.

For more information, visit www.nike.com.